The book bunnies’ household is very rarely without music, but the bunnies have not really reviewed too many books that engage with it. The one main exception is Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem written by poet Amanda Gorman and illustrated by Loren Long, which was reviewed by Caramel about a year ago, and involved music at its heart. Today Caramel reviews another picture book, Somebody to Love, written in 2022 by the singer Valerie June and illustrated by Marcela Avelar, which has music all throughout.
The book bunnies received this book as a review copy.
Sprinkles: Caramel, here we are. Yet again, talking about a new book. What do you want to tell us about this one?
Caramel: This is a book about a banjolele.
S: What’s that?
C: It’s like a ukulele mixed with a banjo. It is a small musical instrument with four strings. And there is a girl in the book named Valerie June who is given one of these instruments.
S: So this is the author, right?
C: I think so. She is a singer and she wrote this book about a song she sings with her banjolele called “Somebody to Love”. Can we put a video of her singing her song here?
S: Sure Caramel. Here it is:
S: Do you like the song Caramel?
C: Yes she has a beautiful voice.
S: How about the banjolele?
C: Yes. It has a very distinctive voice.
S: I know you are a lot more musical than me Caramel. But even I could appreciate her voice. And the single instrument makes the piece focus a lot more on her voice I think. But do you think she wrote the book to just have more people learn about her and her song?
C: Maybe. Who knows? But I think she wrote it because she wanted to tell people the story of her banjolele.
S: How so?
C: In the book Valerie takes the banjolele to a park to play music with other people. But the banjolele is too weak and cannot sing a whole song. But technically she should be able to strum and make the sounds she wants so it cannot be the banjolele who is not able to sing so I am not sure I understand.
S: Well, I think it is a bit more symbolic than that.
C: I guess that makes a lot more sense. But what could she mean by the banjolele not being able to sing long enough? Only humans and birds can sing.
S: Well, tell us what happens when the banjolele cannot sing. Maybe that will help us figure it out.
C: She gets embarrassed and puts it away for a very very long time.
S: But then …
C: She finds it again and somehow it plays then and a whole song too. And finally Valerie and the banjolele can sing together.
S: And that is the “Somebody to Love” song, right?
S: So the banjolele had a dream, a song to sing, but at the beginning it could not live up to its dreams. And nobody stood up for it, everyone made fun of it. Right?
C: Yes, but in the end, Valerie gave it another chance and they could sing together.
S: So what happened to the dream of the banjolele?
C: It became a reality. The banjolele became famous. And now people listen to it and Valerie sing together.
S: So what do you think the book is really about?
C: Dreams! You can have dreams and people do not always support you, but you can still hold on to them!
S: Yes, I think so!
C: Hmm, and it makes a lot more sense now, because at the end, there is a whole page listing proverbs about dreams from many different places. My favorite is the Mexican one, which is Soñar no cuesta nada. It means dreams don’t cost a thing.
S: I like that!
C: Yes. So dreaming does not cost you anything, so you can have as many dreams as you want, and some of them will come true as long as you believe in them.
S: I like that too!
C: At the end of the book there is a part where the author talks to the reader about Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I have a dream” speech.
S: What do you know about that speech?
C: I know it moves a lot of people and people should have listened to him more. But he does talk about dreaming for a better America.
S: And Valerie June says that as a black woman artist she learned the power of dreams from him. So she wrote this book to tell young bunnies all about having dreams and believing in them.
C: I think I understand the book much better now.
S: I think we both do. So how would you describe the book in three words?
C: Colorful, musical, and dreamy.
S: I like those words Caramel! So I think this is a good time to wrap up this review. What do you want to tell our readers?
C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!
3 thoughts on “Caramel reviews Somebody to Love by Valerie June”
Maybe I am dating myself here, but when it comes to a song titled “Somebody to Love”, I can only think of Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane. Grace’s voice could bend steel, that’s how powerful it was.
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Same for Sprinkles actually, but this song is also actually neat…
I didn’t know what a banjolele was before this book review, but I have since found that it was very popular in the 1920’s and 30’s.
It is always good to have a dream and somebody to love.
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